Children and the Union Formation Process: Using the NLSY79 to Examine Relationship Status for Men and Women over the Life Course

Carrie E. Spearin, Brown University

Marriage and parenthood in the U.S. have become increasingly decoupled during the 20th century, making children an active part of adult lives not only after marriage but also throughout the union formation process. However, the effect of children may differ significantly for men and women, largely due to the residential status of children. This paper investigates the role of children in union formation processes, focusing on the gender differences associated with the effect of children on the types of unions formed over the life course. Data from NLSY 1979 (1979-2004) are used to estimate a series of multinomial logit approximations of event history models to determine the odds of entering a specific relationship type for each year of a respondent’s life. Results show the effect of children is similar in direction for both men and women, but is stronger for men even when child’s residential status is taken into account.

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Presented in Session 26: Union Formation